Getting Chummy with Indian Motorcycles

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Edson Gallaudet and David Dunlap in the cockpit of a 1917 Chummy Flyabout.

Edson Gallaudet and David Dunlap in the cockpit of a 1917 Chummy Flyabout.

Early pioneers in the field of aviation often relied on motorcycle engines to power their winged creations as they were cheap, reliable and readily available.  Of course anyone that has ridden a motorcycle from the 1910’s will tell you that what was considered “reliable” 100 years ago might not be up to today’s standards for reliability especially if your planning on taking to the skies.

The aircraft pictured above was built by Edson Gallaudet in 1917.  Gallaudet was truly one of aviation’s early pioneers, experimenting with warped wings in 1896 and receiving U.S. pilot’s license #32 in 1911.  He designed and built a number of planes but this twin engined “Chummy Flyabout” is perhaps the most interesting.

It was powered by two Indian Powerplus engines which drove separate pusher propellers using shaft and bevel transmissions.  Indian had just upgraded the design of their Powerplus in 1917, so perhaps Gallaudet chose them due to the increased performance.  At close to 1000cc’s the Powerplus produced about 18 hp which put it just a couple horses ahead of the J model engine that Harley-Davidson was using manufacturing at the time.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Gallaudet had a long and successful career in aviation and managed not to kill himself in a plane crash.  Instead he flew into his 50’s and then retired from aviation and passed away at the age of 74.

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